Without knowing what the term itself meant, Bob Vucenovic was always drawn to the idea and lifestyle of entrepreneurship. Paradoxically, it was his time in corporate America where he discovered that being an entrepreneur was what he truly wanted to pursue.
At the start of his career at BP as an accountant, Vucenovic was offered a full scholarship to Case Western Reserve University's Master of Accountancy program. He couldn't pass up the opportunity, so he started taking classes in the evening after work.
It wasn’t long into the program, however, that Vucenovic realized he didn’t want to be in accounting. In fact, he didn’t want to be in corporate America at all. He was left with questioning what he really wanted to do.
In trying to find the answer, Vucenovic made the decision to switch from the Master of Accountancy program to CWRU’s MBA program. Not long after the switch, Vucenovic also quit his accounting job at BP.
“I always felt that there has to be more to work and life than my accounting career at BP.” He went on to explain, “At the time, entrepreneurship wasn't as developed of a concept as it is now. But I knew I always wanted to do something of my own.”
Vucenovic started to work for smaller companies. He explained, “I had an opportunity to make more of my life. I was able to be more entrepreneurial. I really enjoyed being able to contribute and watching the impact of my work. Whether that be developing products or developing a market, I was able to see the return.”
Within his roles at smaller companies, Vucenovic realized this was the kind of work he truly wanted to do. As his career progressed, Vucenovic was able to gain the experience necessary to venture into his own entrepreneurial pursuits.
Unlike others at the time, Vucenovic saw the Great Recession as a budding business opportunity. Specifically, the Great Recession provided him an opportunity to help other businesses that were failing.
“My passion for doing things differently and not wanting to be bored is what led me to seizing this opportunity.” Vucenovic continued, “Companies were failing left and right. There were a lot of companies that needed to be turned around.”
Vucenovic had friends in the turnaround business that were seeking him out to join their firm. Not having the desire to work for a large firm, Vucenovic asked if they had any overflow work. Turns out, there was a lot of extra work to be done. For Vucenovic, one thing quickly led to another. Through this, Vucenovic was meeting new people, which eventually led him to finding new businesses in need of attention. Vucenovic explained, “As I got into this work, I realized I really liked being able to rescue companies and, as a matter of fact, we were able to turn around quite a lot.”
By November 2011, Evia Business Partners was formed.
Evia Business Partners is a premier management consulting firm that utilizes a unique problem-solving mindset to deliver solutions to their clients. The firm works closely with their clients in order to create a specific course of action that will resolve any myriad of business issues.
Their hands-on approach allows Evia to assist clients in a variety of ways, whether that be implementing solutions involving interim financial staffing, turnaround management consulting, corporate financing, strategic planning or other business advisory services.
For Vucenovic, this company is more than just saving struggling businesses, it’s about being able to impact and be impacted by those he works with.
“There’s this really nice non-business part of it,” explained Vucenovic. “For example, over Christmas, I’ll get letters thanking me for saving someone’s business and how appreciative they are. It’s kind of unexpected. There’s amazing people you meet along the way, mixed with interesting experiences and all of that combined with being able to save a failing business is just simply incredible.”
It was this feeling that Vucenovic had always been after and still, to this day, continues to strive towards in his current and future companies.
Life as an Entrepreneur
Vucenovic noted that when he was growing up he didn’t know what entrepreneurship was and, as a result, he said, “my career path was more so me muddling my way through, figuring out what I like and what I don't like.”
The skills he learned along the way, however, led him to creating Evia Business Partners, as well as develop the expertise needed to take on important positions at other companies. After Evia Business Partners, Vucenovic became both the COO and CFO of York Wallpapers, as well as his current position as President of ARS Recycling.
Yet, Vucenovic’s career path as an entrepreneur has not been without its challenges. Specifically, Vucenovic commented on the importance of muting the negativity and taking the risks that feel right.
“Many people were confused why I was leaving my job in corporate America during the Great Recession to start a new company,” he stated. “You don't want to surround yourself with a bunch of negative people or naysayers. If you really want to make an impact, you have to make your own decisions and do what feels right.”
Vucenovic emphasized, however, that no work can be done in a vacuum. “There has to be a solid team because you can't do it yourself. It’s crucial to have a good team that is as committed as you are.”
It is this forward-thinking mindset, in addition to the skills he gained at CWRU, that has resulted in Vucenovic finding success in the entrepreneurial world.
Vucenovic credited his professors at CWRU for teaching him how to think like an entrepreneur. He explained, “When I was in classes, you were forced to think differently. You were forced to think about risks. Despite there being no entrepreneurial class at the time, the classes that I was taking were formative rather than straight out of a textbook.”
As for future entrepreneurs, Vucenovic urges them to seek out and make connections.
He stated, “You never know who you are going to come across and it’s important to come out of your comfort zone. Just go out and start meeting people. Try to figure out what it is that you want to do, and start in that direction. It’s important to note that you may not have a direct path. But that’s okay because the indirect path is sometimes the best journey.”
Vucenovic continued, “Chances are, the plan you create won't happen exactly in the order that you imagine, but, what a journey it'll be. If you stay open to the unexpected and embrace new opportunities, you’ll end up where you are meant to be.”
And even then, he explains, you don’t need to always have a plan. “I’m at the sunset of my career and I am working on eventually selling this company. But after this, I’m not sure what I will do. I’m still growing up and taking things day by day. And that’s okay.”